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a poem by Lauren Tivey (1 of 2)

Chinese Prosperity

In the ancient fishing village, all the fish are dead.
A great dam redefines margins: the Yangtze River,
ravenous mother of a new order, has swallowed
temples and fields, her swath of chemicals churning
under defiled skies, a concrete carcinoma swelling
from her banks. Near the celebrated bridge, foul,
monochrome waters slosh up the prows of cargo haulers
as they moan in the miasma. The city keeps on leeching,
working its steel, lading boats, clanging its shipyard ditty.

People, rich with new money, shop in frenzy; designer
bags, gold and glitz dot crowds. Luxury autos navigate
a bustling bunch of yam-hawkers, pedi-cabs, shoe-shines.
Here, even beggars have bank accounts. Foreigners--
Germans, Russians, Poles, their scowling wives,
Chinese girlfriends, raise pints in the orange glow
of bars, busy building modern China, scoring big
in the delta. Peasantry is disappearing, and everyone
is speaking English, quite fashionably, in fast food joints.

Under the pall in the park, there are marvels: Kwan Yin,
statuesque by a green pond, face as sad as an old mother;
pagoda novelties; bamboo corridors; snow-goateed men
bending taut bows to crying erhus; slow ballet of Tai Chi;
smiling Mahjong assemblies. Birds cavort, glad children
squeal. You can see the greasy river from here--look at it--
so dumb and wide, fattening all those wallets. Sometimes,
the sun pierces through the smog, like a whimsical trick.
Sometimes, it spotlights the wisteria, dying on the vine.

© by Lauren Tivey
Gutter Eloquence Magazine ~ Issue #13 ~ January 2011    next poem